Just because you may speak the same language with people at work or at home, doesn’t mean you’re speaking the same language! Developing sales leaders, coaching top performers and closing more sales is infinitely easier, when you learn how to leverage Springboard Coaching Questions to get to a better solution quickly and avoid the costly, time-consuming assumptions which derail and destroy conversations. This one questioning style will not only ensure alignment in communication, team goals and objectives, but it will make you the MVP of your company and team, as you uncover more sales and coaching, developmental moments – with just one question.
Phraseology – One Word Away from a Coaching Breakthrough
Did you ever have someone tell you, “I tried to call the customer. They didn’t respond.” Or, how about, “I spoke with them. They’re not interested.” Depending upon the generation you grew up in, what does “call” mean to you? What does, “spoke with” mean? Does it mean communication via the telephone, mobile phone, a face-to-face office visit, pinging someone via social media, text, instant message? I had one salesperson tell me they connected with their prospect through Xbox Live!
These are powerfully speciﬁc and common examples of how assumptions over-shadow and sabotage your ability to effectively align on common ground, communicate and collaborate effectively, and uncover the developmental opportunities or a better solution.
We know that leadership is about keeping people focused on the shared vision, as well as providing guidance, coaching, direction, autonomy, and support, while developing future leaders.
To achieve this, it needs to be effectively and masterfully communicated throughout the organization in a way that creates clear understanding and aligned, buy in. The language of leadership used to achieve every manager’s primary objective is coaching, and that also includes enrollment. And these are both languages to be learned, just like any other, whether it’s Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Hindi, Mandarin, or Arabic, which I write about in my book, Sales Leadership.
Just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean we speak the same language! Clarify how people define words to ensure you’re both speaking and aligned definition and the same language to uncover more selling opportunities and coaching moments. Challenging communication assumptions = mastering phraseology, the study and understanding of words and their definitions.
When coaching clients, I spend a signiﬁcant portion of time helping leaders reﬁne their message when communicating with their team, coworkers and customers. Whether it’s via email, text, instant message, the phone, face to face, or facilitating a team meeting, sales leaders must realize that every word used must be chosen carefully and strategically, with surgical precision.
Otherwise, you run the risk of delivering a message that can be easily misinterpreted. It could land on people in a way you did not intend that causes a negative reaction, which consequently creates the distrust, assumptions, strained relationships, and communication breakdowns that cost you time, peace of mind, and productivity when resolving a problem that shouldn’t be there in the first place! This is where phraseology comes into play so you can ensure understanding and agreement around the deﬁnitions people have around the words they use.
Be mindful of how a failure to align and understand deﬁnitions around key words and phrases can lead to more problems and breakdowns, whereas listening for, clarifying, and going deeper around the meaning behind certain words can create a breakthrough coaching moment.
Tip From the Coach
Don’t assume you know what people mean, what they do, or how they do it. Challenge all adjectives, jargon, and colloquialisms to understand the intended message behind the words they use.
Phraseology = Coaching Moments
Proactive, intentional listeners are masters at the art of phraseology. They suspend assumptions regarding the mutual interpretation of words to paradoxically create moments to coach assumptions! Consider these words and phrases:
- Sell value
- Great service
- No budget
- Wants a bigger discount
- Not a ﬁt
- Great ﬁt
- Competition is offering a better deal and product
These words and phrases often hold different deﬁnitions for each individual and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. That’s why proactive listeners ask the critical, springboard questions others don’t. Think about your visceral reaction when you hear comments like, “I’m feeling stressed and overwhelmed with my difficult workload” or “When we get budget approval, we’ll be ready to buy.”
You may assume you know what this person means based on a previous experience, when they used words like stressed, overwhelmed, difficult budget, and approval. Because you already have an assumptive based answer ready, you don’t take the time to look behind the words and validate what the statement and the words others used mean to them. Consequently, you blurt out your response before truly understanding the other person’s message, causing frustration, productivity gaps, and mistrust.
By becoming insatiably curious and mindful of phraseology, you are going to ask more and better questions that seek to understand the other person’s point of view, while avoiding assumptions that you all speak the same language.
Springboard Coaching Questions
A better approach would be to use what I call a Springboard Question, also similar to a Clarifying Question. Here’s your opportunity to explore deeper into what she wants or needs most. Notice a Springboard Question simply builds off what the person shared (an adverb, noun, adjective, jargon, etc.), adding clarity to ambiguity in order to prevent costly assumptions. Here are a few examples:
- When you say, “stressed and overwhelmed,” how do you mean?
- Can you go into more depth regarding what you mean when you say, “difficult workload?”
- When you heard, “the customer is pushing back,” can you say more about that?
- How do you know that to be a fact?
- What are the facts that support (your position, how the customer feels, etc.)? What assumptions might you be making?
- What does “being overwhelmed” look and feel like for you?
- When you say you want to build your brand, become more successful here, and make more money, can we break each of those goals down so we’re clear about the end result you want to achieve? What would that look like once you’ve achieved this? What would be present for you?
- What’s your deﬁnition of (coaching, observation, success, failure, stress, collaboration, difficult customer, assumptions, exemplary customer service, conﬁdence, fear, etc.)?
- I hear that you expect the help desk to be more responsive to your requests. What would that look like for you? Can you share some speciﬁc examples that would make you feel they’re being more responsive?
- When you said you did your best to turn that customer around, how exactly did you go about selling value to that customer? What did that sound like?
You Don’t Know What You Think You Knew
Questions that focus on the phraseology of communication allow you to clarify what you’ve heard or go into a topic in more depth, so you can become clear with what people are really saying and ensure uniformity and alignment in language to ensure your focused towards a shared vision, goal or solution. Moreover, questions will challenge everyone’s core assumptions and turn off automatic, passive listening and reactionary responses in every conversation.
Leverage these springboard questions to propel you and your team to your next level of success. And it may take only one question to begin the process.